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Comic Book Review
In New York City, Cindy, Cleo and Erik have been attacked by the terrifying Mr Ebonite – only to be saved by a surprise new arrival… but that’s a story for another day! Unaware of their friends’ plight, the Doctor and Gabby are diving into a brand-new adventure, journeying into the deep, deep past – when the world was young and Neanderthals and Homo sapiens walked side by side! Meet Munmeth, Neanderthal healer of the Wolf Tree Clan, and discover what unexpected evil haunts the dawn of humankind…!
Following last issue’s gripping cliffhanger involving Cindy Wu in Sunset Park, writer Nick Abadzis cruelly yanks us away from that plot arc and into a new two-part storyline, Medicine Man, which takes the Doctor and Gabby back in time to the Pleistocene Epoch.
As I settled down to read this issue, I wondered what similarities it might bear to Doctor Who’s earlier caveman story (indeed, Doctor Who stories don’t get any earlier than this), An Unearthly Child. However, Munmeth, the fascinating Neanderthal shaman we meet here, has more in common with the spiritual Nimrod in Ghost Light: “I am Munmeth. Hear my song. I am of the Wolf Tree Clan, we who know the Earth Mother, from the ice to the tundra, from the low valleys to the tall mountain tops. I am Munmeth, and I bring you gifts, for such are my stories.” At first, Munmeth and Gabby have a few communication problems, as the Time Lord gift of translation doesn’t work as well as it usually does, owing to the Doctor being injured, but Gabby is surprised by Munmeth’s level of intelligence. Like her, he is a talented artist – in his case, a cave painter.
Gabby feels guilty because she believes that her species, Homo sapiens, drove the Neanderthals to extinction. In humanity’s defence, the Doctor points out that (in the Doctor Who universe at least) “human evolution was influenced by several alien species – the Jagaroth, the Fendahl, the Osirans –” He could also have alluded to The Daemons, in which the Third Doctor claimed that Azal’s people helped “Homo sapiens kick out Neanderthal man.” This isn’t much of a comfort to Gabby, but there is alternative theory – that Neanderthals were absorbed into the Cro-Magnon population by interbreeding. Perhaps the next issue will address their fate…
Having rendered the second half of #14, artist Leonardo Romero tackles his first full issue in this series. His work (with its distinctive pupil-less eyes) is perhaps a little less detailed than last time, but nevertheless he gives Gabby some compelling facial expressions and treats us to some beautiful cave art. There isn’t the same level of dynamism that I praised in my review of #14, but then this is primarily a dialogue-driven issue. However, there is more action towards the cliffhanger ending – the nature of which I won’t disclose…
To be continued!